While a lot of people get on social media to talk trash, Philadelphia sanitation worker Terrill Haigler created his Instagram account — @_yafavtrashman — to talk about trash.
Since May, Haigler has used his platform to help city residents better understand why trash pickup has been delayed amid the coronavirus pandemic, and has raised more than $32,000 to buy additional personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies for his sanitation colleagues.
“It makes me feel really humble, and it makes me feel really honored,” Haigler, 30, of North Philadelphia, said of his success. “But it also gives me fuel for the bigger fight, which is getting a bill passed that deems sanitation workers essential in the country and helping them acquire hazard pay.”
In the month since The Inquirer first profiled Haigler, the Instagram account where he shares photos and live videos updating residents on trash pickup and giving them insights into the daily life of a city trash collector has grown from 4,400 followers to more than 19,800.
Haigler has been profiled so much in the media, including on ABC’s World News Tonight With David Muir, that he now gets recognized on his trash route, and has got a business manager, Ariana Queenan of Write Here. Write Now. LLC, handling most of his media and partnership requests.
“I didn’t do it for me. I didn’t do it for the clout,” Haigler said. “I did it because I genuinely care about my coworkers and their safety. Just like me, they have a family to go home to.”
Businesses from Mission Taqueria to Honest Tea have donated food and beverages to Haigler and his colleagues. The Philly PPE Store on Passyunk Avenue donated 500 masks to his campaign, and Advantage Industrial Supply Inc. on East Tioga Street donated 10 cases of large bottles of hand sanitizer and 10 cases of disinfectant aerosol spray.
For Haigler, though, the best part of the unexpected success of his Instagram account is seeing how the public is following his tips to help make trash pickup easier, and his suggestions on ways they can show their gratitude to the city’s sanitation workers.
“The morale is totally up, and with the support of the public and the public putting the trash out in an easier way to pick up, we’ve actually been catching up tremendously,” Haigler said. “That’s because everyone took ownership and responsibility.”
More than 2,000 people purchased Ya Fav Trashman T-shirts through Haigler’s month-long fundraising campaign for PPE equipment and cleaning supplies for his colleagues. With the $32,000 raised, he hopes to be able to buy at least two masks, gloves, and cleaning supplies for all 1,200 of the city’s sanitation workers.
But Haigler’s not done yet. He plans to roll out a line of merchandise in October to raise more funds, and he wants to lobby for hazard pay for sanitation workers, and push for technological advancements in equipment and uniforms for the industry.
“I want to use my platform to really revolutionize sanitation. It didn’t start off as that, but as the platform grows, the goals have to grow,” he said. “I have to push for a sanitation worker 50 years from now to be able to do their job safely and feel like they’re essential.”